After President Ram Nath Kovind conferred National Sports Awards to 74 sportspersons and coaches, Union sports minister Kiren Rijiju has defended the jumbo list.

Altogether 74 sportspersons and coaches, including five for the Khel Ratna and 27 for the Arjuna Award, were honoured by President Kovind on Saturday.

The number of recipients of the National Sports Awards was more than double the usual number.

The President for the first time presented the awards in a virtual ceremony.

The winners of awards were connected virtually to President Kovind at the Rashtrapati Bhavan from 9 different Sports Authority of India-designated locations.

Also read: President Kovind virtually presents Arjuna Award to Assam’s boxer Lovlina Borgohain

Defending the huge number of recipients of the National Sports Awards, Union sports minister Rijiju said India’s improved performance on the international stage merited such a list.

“The performance of our athletes in the international level has become better. When our players perform better, they have to be recognised and rewarded,” a media report quoted Rijiju as saying.

He said if the government doesn’t recognise their achievements, it will discourage every budding sporting talent in India.

Also read: Centre enhances prize money of National Sports Awards

“So, compared to the previous years, the performances of Indian athletes have gone up considerably and as a result, the number of award winners has also gone up,” the Union sports minister said.

Rijiju further said the government had no role in deciding the awards’ list as a selection committee has been given responsibility to prepare the list of awardees.

“For the sports awards, the committee was headed by a Supreme Court judge and all the renowned people from the field of sports,” Rijiju said.

“When they take a call there is intense deliberation, discussion and there are set guidelines on the basis of which they have used their judgement,” the Union minister added.

“The minister doesn’t decide the awards, the minister only gives the consent on behalf of the government but it is the technical committee which decides,” he further said.

According to the report, only 60 of the 74 awardees were present at the various centres designated by the Sports Authority of India.

Assam’s boxer Lovlina Borgohain, who has been conferred Arjuna Award, received it from Chandigarh.

The President applauded as the names and achievements of the awardees, attending the ceremony were announced.

“This is the first awards ceremony in COVID times during which the President has participated,” Rijiju said.

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